Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Care Packages

The good folks over at have asked that we put out a post giving advice on sending care packages to M's around the world. This is problematic for many because such a post would look like we were begging for stuff but since this blog is fairly anonymous I feel safe to tell it like it is.

First, a little advice on packaging. Here in Middle Earth the postal service is not very dependable. The post passes through several countries who are all notorious for pilfering the packages and it is very often that our packages have been opened and much of the contents end up as presents for the children of the postal workers. Insuring a package is completely useless for us- and I suspect in many countries so don't bother. What you can do is go crazy with the tape. A thoroughly wrapped package is a nuisance to get into and they will move on to a softer target. Also, if you individually wrap each of the contents then that also adds a good measure of security. Finally, if you write a packing list on the inside flap with a big ol' magic marker they are less likely to pilfer.

Now, that is how to ship it- but what should you ship? I like Oreos. You know you can get a lot of cookies in this world but Oreos are unique to the USA. But other than that if you send package food stuff then often local postal workers don't know what to do with it and leave it alone. My personal favorite is Taco Bell Taco Dinners. I can't get anything like that here and it is so foreign that it always makes it through in the post. Mac and cheese stuff for folks with kids is always good. Condiment things like salad dressings are not usually available and much appreciated.

Now some things you might think would be a good idea but really it isn't is a cake mix. If you think about it a cake mix is heavy and cost you a lot to ship but it is 90% flour and hey, we can get flour. Some specialty mixes like a gooey brownie mix or something like that can be very nice however. Chocolate is not a very good idea as it never travels well. The only exception to this is Reeses Peanut Butter Cups. They don't travel well but you can't get them anywhere but the US so we eat them melted when we can get them. Oh, and personally I don't like mayonnaise. I am just saying.

Something else you should consider when sending a package is valuables. Don't do it. We had a family leave behind a young boy's favorite stuffed bear and they mailed it out to him. We never saw it again. Sad. If you don't want to loose it don't send it in the mail. Also, kids love toys and it is great to get them but again, the postal workers have kids too and the toys do not often make it. My mom sent us a package our first Christmas overseas full of Barbie Dolls for the girls and it never made it. It cost her a fortune and she decided never to mail us anything again. Please try again Mom?

Something that always seems to make it but you wouldn't think it might is CD's and computer games. We love Christian music and the latest movies. They are light so they are cheap to ship and you can buy us the discount stuff cause we haven't seen anything in the last two years anyway.

Well, I hope that this was helpful for those of you out there thinking of sending a package to someone. It means a lot to us to get a package. Even something small communicates much love and grace to us at the end of a long day. Thank you to all those who support M's this way. If you have any questions about what I have said leave a comment, I will be glad to follow up with you.


Anonymous said...

How would a person go about getting an M's address that happens to be in Gondor?

Someone might want to bless you as you have blessed us with your writings!

My e-mail is

BKC said...

Strider, I will mail a package to you when the other commenter mails hers. We'll see which gets to you first. It should be close, I bet :) Don't expect Oreos from me.

J. Guy Muse said...

Maybe its not the same in Middle World as it is here, but going to the Post Office to pick up a package is an all-morning ordeal.

1) You have to take copies of your identity papers, 2) check in to let them know you are there. 3) Pay whatever fees they are asking (storage, handling, etc.) 4) Receive a numbered turn. 5) Wait in the waiting room for your name to be called (can be up to 2-hours) 6) When name is called, follow the man to weigh your package. 7) Get in line to have it opened and viewed. 8) Answer multiple questions about its origin, what it is, what it is for, where it is going, who sent it, etc. 9) Go out and get copies made of the contents list or whatever other copies they ask you to make. 10) Return and wait your turn again while they finish waiting on those behind you. 11) Check to make sure everything is still in the package (since you left to get the copies). 12) Secure the box with tape. 13) Take it outside to another line where you have to sign multiple release papers. 14) Stand in another line to get the package weighed again (so they can prove it is the same weight as it was at the beginning and nothing has been taken.) 15) Take the signed, stamped papers back to the main desk. 16) Pay more fees for the service received. 17) Wait for the guard to decide to open the door to let you out. 18) Show the guard your release papers. 19) Carry the package down two flights of steps and catch a cab back to the house. 20) Upon getting home, open the package again and enjoy the Kool-Aide or cookies the good folks sent from back home!

BKC said...

We had some of that stuff to deal with at our home church. Some of the guys in the field basically said only send essential packages because the cost is too high. I just imagine you having a conversation with American friends when the term "go the post office" comes up. Two entirely different perspectives!

Anonymous said...

Hello Strider a bit more help on care packages, thanks! Have you not received our new e-mail address or the last e-mail we sent? Angie.

Strider said...

Marie- I will e-mail you soon. I have been traveling with guests lately.

Guy- We had a very similar breakdown to get our packages when we lived in Rohan. One of the guys on our team kept a map and a list of all the places you had to go to and in which order. Of course, it changed every time you went but most of the 15- 20 steps were largely the same only in different orders. I guess one good thing about living in such a broken country as Gondor is that such complicated proceedures are also broken. Sometimes that means that things are harder but many times they are easier for us. When beaurocracy fails only relationships are left. It took us seven months to find the right people to get to know to get license plates for a new car for our projects. A friend of mine is still waiting. He is quite frustrated about walking out his gate everyday right past his beautiful van that he can't drive. If you know the folks it can be done- if you don't it can't.

BKC- Very funny. I am not sure what the time would be to send a package from your end of the city to mine would be but I wouldn't hold my breath.

Angie, we did get your new address. We haven't got the package yet but hope to see it soon. Thanks!